Thoughts

The Lost God of Jesus V

FINAL THOUGHTS

Cry out with joy, O daughter of Zion!
Shout jubilantly, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Look—your King is coming;
He is righteous and able to save.
He comes seated humbly on a donkey,
on a colt, a foal of a donkey.
I will dismantle Ephraim’s chariots,
retire the warhorses from Jerusalem,
send home the archers to their families in peace.
He will make peace with the nations;
His sovereignty will extend from coast to coast,
from the Euphrates River to the limits of the earth.

Zechariah 9

Over the last four posts, we have considered the lost God of Jesus. In these we have struggled to understand the representations and actions attributed to the Father God of Jesus in the New Testament which conflict with the way he is portrayed both in the Old Testament and today when many, who take the name ‘Christian’, still see this God as a violent being who supports war, slaughter and genocide. I need present no further evidence in this regard in 2024 than the overwhelming support for the indiscriminate slaughter of thousands of innocent men, women, children and babies by many in the ‘Evangelical’ and ‘Charismatic’ movements – especially in the United States of America – allegedly the most ‘Christinaised’ nation in the world today. I cannot begin to contemplate how such people can claim to follow and serve The Prince of Peace revealed in the Christian scriptures.

And in the light of this and other fundamental issues I, along with, thousands of others are forced to question or ‘deconstruct’ our received belief system. Sadly, few leaders, at least in my religious culture here in Scotland, will even mention these issues far less try and address them seriously.

I know Christians of long standing who are, at this moment, struggling to come to terms with all of this – and as I have written over the last few weeks, I have done so for them, as well as for myself (I personally find writing helps to clarify my thinking). In doing so I have attempted to be as open and honest as possible regarding my own doubts and struggles – and, through the process, have come to rest in a place where I remain convinced, because of my own convictions, experience and through reading Church history and the experience of others, of the reality of the Father God of Jesus as One who is in essence Love – and who expresses that love in the historical person of Jesus.

However – I know not everyone who has tripped, fallen and struggled with these issues has been able to rise and stand again where feel I can I stand today. Some walk away from faith altogether, feeling they have been misled or misinformed – although I am convinced Jesus does not walk away from them. I do not judge them – and I believe that the heart of God is ever towards them in love, mercy and compassion. He is more than able to deal and bear with our doubts!

All that having been said why have I chosen to reconfirm my core faith while others have been unable to do so? For a number of reasons, some of which I hope may help those who find themselves struggling with doubt.

At a fundamental level, I cannot not believe in a Creator God. For me, the complexity of life and nature all militate against the ‘accident’ of life as we know it. I could expand on this but nothing I say would convince a sceptic so I will leave it there. As the writer of the book of Hebrews states – ‘By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.’ I too believe this. Yes, faith is involved (atheistic reason does not have an answer either as far as I can see) – but for me, this is also the most rational and believable explanation for everything I ‘see’ physically as well as the inner, psychological and spiritual compunction to worship ‘something’. I detect this all peoples and cultures. As Paul Kingsnorth says, after a life of searching, practising Zen Buddhism and thereafter becoming a Wiccan Priest –

I started to dimly see something I ought to have seen years before: that the great spiritual pathways, the teachings of the saints and gurus and mystics, and the vessels built to hold them—vessels we call “religions”—might have been there for a reason. They might even have been telling us something urgent about human nature, and what happens when our reach exceeds our grasp. G. K. Chesterton once declared, contra Marx, that it was irreligion that was the opium of the people. “Wherever the people do not believe in something beyond the world,” he explained, “they will worship the world. But above all, they will worship the strongest thing in the world.

He goes on to say of his own journey –

And yet. As the years went on, Zen was not enough. It was full of compassion, but it lacked love. It lacked something else too, and it took me a long time to admit to myself what it was: I wanted to worship.

Through what can only be described as a miraculous set of circumstances Paul Kingsnorth is today a committed follower of Jesus – worshipping in an Eastern Orthodox Christian community in Ireland.

How do we account for this? That there is a deep desire to worship within the spiritual DNA of humanity is undeniable. While in the West we turn that longing to worship towards consumerism, sports, sex or health and well-being, among many other ‘gods’,  these are just one more proof of this deep primal desire and motivation.

The question then is – who or what do I worship? The true Christian answer (although as we have seen there are many false ones) is the true worship of the true God – the Father God of Jesus. I believe here is where all our deep desires to worship are met and consummated.

In addition to the above, there is to be considered, once again, the undeniable reality of another dimension – a spiritual realm that cannot be fully grasped by the rational mind alone. From the atmosphere in a room to the revelatory dream, intuition, the ‘gut feeling’ or the premonition, among other things – these all point to the fact that we are not alone in this world. There is a higher and deeper reality!

So we may genuinely struggle with the authenticity or ‘inerrancy’ of the biblical record as it has been handed down to us or with the apparent violent god sometimes presented in the Old Testament. We may question the wisdom and political or theological reasoning for excluding certain books from the New Testament or those included (as we saw even the ‘Reformer’ Luther did this). We may struggle with questions regarding the justice of God and why pain and suffering exist if God is truly a good God. We may be appalled by the history of Christian violence and its misrepresentation of the God and Father of Jesus – but the facts I have outlined above remain undeniable, for me at least. My doubts or yours are not fatal – they are not the main thing. There is a God, I do not doubt that for a moment. I also do not doubt that humanity was created in love by this Creator God. How things went wrong is another story. I doubt neither that he is revealed as Love both within the deeper sacred texts and in the experience of saints, mystics and common folk throughout the ages. I also have no doubt we were created for union and communion with this Creator God. We can also ‘know him’ – although he is, at one and the same time, unknowable. I am happy to live with that paradox. I am finite – God is infinite. I can think of no god who, for me, resonates with my spirit as the One true God – other than the Father God presented and revealed to us in the person of Jesus. I think we lay too little emphasis on such resonation.Yes, texts and interpretations may fail us (they too are finite and prone to error), and, in general, they are not written in a way the Western mind computes, but I am invited to see beyond the text to the Living Word who is God himself.

But it’s all a myth someone will still shout – you cannot ‘prove’ any of it! Quite so, perhaps – but I am happy to rest in this ‘myth’. Where else can I go, what else can I do, apart from sinking into nihilism and hopelessness – for here in this ‘myth’ I find, not only peace and satisfaction but ultimate reality even though at times I cannot fully grasp the mystery of it all. So I wait for the day when God, who has revealed himself to me in the face of Jesus and by his Spirit, will complete the work he started when his King came as the one who was – ‘Righteous and able to save,  seated humbly on a donkey, on a colt, a foal of a donkey.‘ And who will, one day yet –

Retire the warhorses from Jerusalem,
send home the archers to their families in peace.
He will make peace with the nations;His sovereignty will extend from coast to coast,
from the Euphrates River to the limits of the earth.

Zechariah 9

NOTE

Some further reading covering this series –

Articles:

Paul Kingsnorth Story – https://www.firstthings.com/article/2021/06/the-cross-and-the-machine

Punishment of sin by the Perth Kirk Session Margo Todd and Scottish History Society – https://www.futurelearn.com/info/courses/ems-palaeography/0/steps/30857

Atonement For 2 Centuries Of Persecution Catholic, Protestant Churches Repent Of Efforts to Eliminate Anabaptists Rich Preheim – https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/2004/06/19/atonement-for-2-centuries-of-persecution/7d724d0f-5e13-4c2c- b1f1-880f6e10f120/

Christian Nonviolence and Church History Jesus’ message of peace for all time Ronald J. Sider – https://www.plough.com/en/topics/justice/nonviolence/christian-nonviolence-and-church-history

Books:

Sinners in the Hands of a Loving God  – Brian Zahnd.

The Rise of Christianity – Rodney Stark.

Beyond Belief – Elaine Pagels.

What the Bible Really Teaches-  Keith Ward.

Count Zinzendorf  – Paul Wemmer.

The Book of Perth – John Parker Lawson

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply